NYRB Classics

What We're Loving: .Gif Stories, Street Music, Heart-Breaking Car Rides, French Crime Novels

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison travels the information superhighway, Amanda Hahn pines for Europe, Jonda Robinson dances in her car, and Ryan Callahan revisits a description of violence.  imagesYou guys and gals should check out the popular world wide website named http://www.reddit.com.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, please start here.

Reddit is comprised of many popular subreddits (Communities) that normal, well adjusted people would enjoy.  There are also less popular subreddits that cater to internet weirdos that believe sitting on balloons to be sex.  One of the pages that falls somewhere in the middle is r/behindthegifs. And this week that page is, let’s all say it at the same time, WHAT I’M LOVIN’ [Insert raucous cheering].

.Gifs are tiny moving pictures that look grainy and normally involve a dog (This is the world champion).  Part of the appeal of a good .gif is that there is no context.  A funny video is chopped down to like four seconds, sound is eliminated, and it never stops.  r/behindthegifs takes the best abrupt clips and adds an absurd backstory.

You should check out the entire subreddit, but here are some of my favorites that I’ve discovered so far.

There are a trillion great ones, so please check out the subreddit and comment with your favorites.  Let’s create a community of people appreciating this internet community! - David Allison

800_370I love street musicians. I love walking through a park and hearing an acoustic guitar in the distance. On the rare occasion I take public transportation, I love waiting at the stop with a sultry singer banging out a rendition of Summertime. It’s something I rarely hear in Dallas. I hadn’t noticed the lack of street music here until I recently traveled to a popular world continent named Europe. If you’re unfamiliar with it, start here.

Almost every time I stepped out of anywhere to go from point A to point B, I would bump into one or more people performing. Performances ranged from one man and a guitar to a band of young drummers. They’re not always the most talented people, but it’s heartwarming to watch someone do something that they love to do. The only times I can think of that I have thought to myself, “I wish I loved anything as much as that person loves doing what they’re doing” have been when watching someone sing or play an instrument. Street musicians allow me to get up-close and really watch them love what they’re doing. I put some of the musicians I enjoyed watching the most in a playlist that I watch whenever I miss eating gelato and people watching on the steps of an old cathedral.

But this doesn’t have to be something that I miss! Or that any of us miss! So this week, I am putting out a call to action. Musicians of Dallas: Take to the streets! Find a park, find a bench, find a tunnel, an alleyway, a corner, a roof – wherever! Play for us. Please. Play a little soundtrack for our lives. Let us watch you do what you love. We’ll love you even more for it. - Amanda Hahn

17JasonIsbell37This summer has found me spending a good amount of time in my car, traveling here and there. My favorite thing to do while driving is put on some good music, sing along at the top of my lungs, and, when the song calls for it, do just enough car dancing to make other drivers wish they were having as much fun. Lately I’ve had a variety of artists riding shotgun, from Loretta Lynn telling me that I’m not woman enough to take her man (she’s right; I’m not) to Vampire Weekend asking who really cares about an Oxford comma (I do, guys! Use it!). One artist who I keep returning to, though, is Jason Isbell and his album Southeastern. With today’s music, it’s usually hard for me to find an album that I enjoy from beginning to end, but Isbell’s stands out because it’s consistently good. It’s got an Americana/Country sound to it, and it showcases his ability as a songwriter. My hands-down favorite song on the album is “Elephant.” I highly recommend you give it a listen, but I’m also giving you a warning: It’s heavy, it’s haunting, and it’s a heart-breakingly beautiful ride. “Traveling Alone,” “Cover Me Up,” and “Different Days” are some of my favorites as well, and “Super 8” is a fun, upbeat track. Overall, Isbell’s weighty lyrics and stories have been just the break I needed from the sugary summer anthems that radio stations have on heavy rotation.

Next time you’re roadtripping or just stuck in traffic, I highly recommend you crank up whatever your current jam is, sing it like you mean it, and car dance like no one is watching. But trust me, other drivers will be watching--and they’ll be wishing they were half as cool as you. - Jonda Robinson

productimage-picture-the-mad-and-the-bad-376As I've mentioned once or twice, I'm a big fan of crime novels.  This week I dove into the works of French crime novelist Jean-Patrick Manchette.  I was introduced to Manchette thanks to the New York Review Books Classic series. His first solo crime novel, The Mad and the Bad was the July selection for the NYRB Classics subscription series. The novel tells the tale of a immoral industrialist, the mentally unstable woman he hires to babysit his nephew, and the professional hit man  he hires to murder them both. I devoured the novel in two sittings. Not the most impressive feat; the book runs about 150 pages.

After reading The Mad and the Bad, I tore through two other Manchette books: Fatale, the story of a cold-blooded  blackmailer and murderess who grows tired of her lifestyle, and The Prone Gunman, about a CIA hit man and his disastrous attempt to return Gatsby-like to his hometown and reclaim his long lost love. Like The Mad and the Bad, both novels are short and well worth your time.

I consider Manchette a kindred spirit with American crime master Jim Thompson (The Killer Inside Me, The Grifters). Both write with  a lean, straightforward style that perfectly captures the pitch black comedy of their borderline absurd situations. Manchette's characters are broken people doing bad things, unable and unwilling to stop themselves. Like all great noir, his characters are on a one way journey to the abyss, and they have a sense of humor about their fate.

Manchette's terse, propulsive style creates some of the finest action sequences I have ever read. There is one particularly impressive sequence in The Mad and the Bad. A confrontation in a department store leads to some impromptu arson leads to a bloody shootout in the street. I found myself rereading the passage over and over again.

Reading those Manchette books had me so jazzed, so in love with the possibilities of the crime novel. It is my favorite genre, by far. After finishing those books, I found myself stuck on what to read next. Ultimately I settled on tackling an author I have long neglected, Raymond Chandler. You can expect to read more about him next week. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Factoid Scavenging, Angels With Dirty Mouths, Vague Wedding Memories, Old Books Made New

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison learns, Jonda Robinson professes, Amanda Hahn sways, and Ryan Callahan loves.  imgresThis week, I'm loving another Podcast.  I know that I probably recommend more of these than anyone, but that's because I really feel like the medium has grown so much over the last few years and is genuinely a legitimate source of entertainment now.  No longer are Podcasts just something that your friend does and no one listens to (Though that still happens sometimes).  Today,there are many examples of smaller podcasts that are really creating some amazing things.

My favorite of the week is called No Such Thing as a Fish and it's created by the QI Elves.  I've long been a fan of the BBC program QI (Which stands for Quite Interesting), a hilarious show that has been providing fascinating factoids for eleven seasons now.  And while No Such Thing as a Fish isn't hosted by the incomparable Stephen Fry, it's still a great listen.  Each episode tackles a different genre of knowledge and you learn a ton of random things, like Ghanaian coffins or how the Battle of Hastings was in Battle, not Hastings.  If you enjoy the tv program QI or you just enjoy broadening your horizons, I'd definitely give the Podcast a shot.  Bonus!  They just completed a run of episodes centered around the World Cup.  Each installment would pit two countries against each other, the hosts would scavenge for the most fascinating tidbits they could find, and at the end, a winning country was chosen. Double bonus, none of the facts were about soccer.  Or futbol.  - David Allison

imagesThis week, I’m professing my love for Amy Schumer. My mom refers to her as “that girl with the angelic face who says really dirty things,” and if you’re familiar with her stand-up or Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer, then you know that description is pretty accurate. I first stumbled upon her in 2007 when she was a contestant on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and I felt a connection with her girl-next-door looks. While on the surface her humor can sometimes appear to be crass, at its core it’s always smart, and it demonstrates that Schumer has a good grasp on the big picture of what it’s like to navigate the world, especially as a woman.

From the beginning, I was in “like” with Amy. I appreciated her wit, admired her boldness, and wanted to be friends with her (I imagined us getting pedicures while sipping champagne and discussing the complexities of dating, with her saying something like “It’s 2014, you know! You’d think we’d have come up with a better system by now!”). Falling in love with her was something that happened for me during the second season of Inside Amy Schumer, as she, along with her brilliant writers, avoided the sophomore slump by taking things up a notch and leaving viewers asking “Whoa--did she really just go there?” One of my favorite examples of this is her sketch “A Very Realistic Military Game,” which does an excellent job of presenting a hot button issue in a lighthearted way, forcing you to think about the bigger idea.

I’m super excited that Amy is bringing her comedic stylings to Dallas this November, just in time for my birthday. Fingers crossed I can come up with a plan to make my champagne-and-pedicure dreams come true while she’s in town. - Jonda Robinson

Last weekend, I went to the Dominican Republic for my cousin’s wedding. Dominican weddings aren’t very different from Catholic, American ones. The wedding occurs in a church, then there’s a mass, followed by a reception. Typical. But receptions at Latin American weddings are not like the typical Catholic, American ones. Dancing starts immediately and continues all night. The bride and groom stick around for the whole reception. Colored lights are everywhere. Sometimes rappers show up. Sometimes the DJ hops onto the dance floor. Sometimes there’s a giant cake surrounded by spotlights. Sometimes Go Pros on helicopters fly past your head. And every single time, it’s a blast. The most energy filled part of the night is La Hora Loca, or The Crazy Hour. Music picks up, and people pass out hats, masks, glasses, disco ball necklaces, and shots. Lots of shots. I wish I could say more about La Hora Loca, but I can’t. Because I don’t remember much of that or the rest of the night. Because I made great use of the Brugal rum at the open bar and excellent use of the shots being passed out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n-O6qtt9c0&feature=youtu.be

I have a vague memory of dancing while someone rapped and suddenly realizing that I had never seen a live rapper at a wedding, and this was a something new I should be paying attention to. I found out later that the Dominican rapper, Mozart La Para was the performer. Just right there. Rapping away. I also found out later that we left the reception at around 4:30 or 5 am, and my 80-something year old grandma with a recently broken knee had partied all night along with everyone else. I’m so proud of her. I’m so proud to be Dominican. I’m not proud of this video of the wedding/me doing whatever the heck I’m doing, but feel free to watch and enter the wedding along with me. Bienvenidos a la Republica Dominicana. And farewell to my sound state of mind. - Amanda Hahn

NYRB CLASSICSBy now it should be no secret that I love books. Old books, new books, used books, fresh books - I love them all. I love the way they feel in my hands. I love the way they look on my shelves. I love they way they rest on my chest when I take a nap. But my favorite books of all come from the New York Review Books Classic series. NYRB Classics offers an eclectic selection of books from around the world, most of which have been long out of print. The books are re-released with new art, and some kind of cover stock  that seems to have been lowered from Asgard. I cannot describe the way the books feel in my hands other than to say perfectly.

I was first made aware of NYRB Classics in an essay by Roger Ebert. In praise of the works of Georges Simenon, the French master of the roman dur, Ebert mentioned reading a recent NYRB Classics reissue. Now that I was aware of Simenon's existence, I had to go out and buy his books. That is how my brain works. After reading Red Lights, a nasty little tale of a road trip gone wrong, I discovered, in the back of the book, a list of all the available NYRB Classics. Now I had to get all of them. At the time I lived in New York. My local used book store, Mast Books on Avenue A, carried an impressive selection of NYRB Classics. I picked up everyone I could.

This wonderful series has introduced me to so many new books that I never would have discovered ob my own: Max Beerbohm's Seven Men, a wistful and witty series of fictional biographies, Kingsley Amis' bitter and funny Lucky Jim, which became one of my favorites novels the moment I finished, Felix Feneon's Novels in Three Lines, true stories of crime and corruption told in three lines with prose carved out of stone, Dwight Macdonald's Masscult and Midcult, a collection of essays from the 50's and 60's so prescient and incisive they could have been written last week, Robert Sheckley's Store of the Worlds, sharp little science fiction tales so smart and weird and human.

These days, I have my NYRB Classics delivered. Each Christmas my aunt enrolls me in the NYRB Classics book club. Each month, a new book arrives in the mail. This week's selection is The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette, another master of French crime. Last week it was a collection of Montaigne's essays. Next month the selection is a World War I memoir. If you are a book lover, or you know a book lover, I cannot recommend NYRB Classics enough. Your favorite book is out there waiting for you, and you don't even know it yet. - Ryan Callahan